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Experiences of BTS Winter Meeting 2019: Alice Jasper

The BALR generously awarded me a travel award to attend the British Thoracic Society winter meeting 2019 in Westminster, London. I couldn’t help but be excited for the 3 days ahead after the full programme release and downloading the mobile app to add calendar reminders for day-to-day planning. The programme was jam-packed with cutting edge research addressing key clinical, translational and basic scientific questions regarding lung health in 2019. The meeting schedule included everyone from established experts in the field to early career researchers, and I was struck by the 50/50 gender balance which was truly inspiring to see.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the sessions I attended however, there were some talks that I have not stopped thinking about since my return from London. On Wednesday, the joint BTS/BALR symposium: “the silver tsunami” offered a range of inspirational speakers, with a standout talk from Dr Dawn Bowdish on inflammageing and the lung microbiome, which opened my eyes to the distinct micobiome profiles across the ageing and diseased lung. My Thursday highlight was the plenary scientific symposium which showcased the enormous breadth and depth of scientific research taking place in the UK. Covering a range of lung diseases from COPD to cystic fibrosis, the quality of the presentations was truly inspiring for young scientists, such as myself. I was blown away by the ground breaking imaging technology shown by Professor Stefan Marciniak from his studies on endoplasmic reticulum stress in alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and in awe of Dr Amanda Tatler – proving women in science can do both as she delivered some amazing data on TGF-β signalling in fibrosis while her 5 month old baby sat in the audience! Finally a novel concept of neutrophil cytoplasts, or zombie neutrophils, was introduced to me by Professor Bruce Levy, of Harvard University on Friday, the final day of the conference- a magical story to close my time at BTS.

As well as learning about a whole host about current respiratory research, my abstract “Exposure to electronic cigarette vapour induces functional changes in neutrophils which are more exaggerated by 4th generation devices” was accepted for a spoken presentation. This was an incredible opportunity to present some of my PhD findings, and to have some insightful discussions during the question time afterwards. To have received some great feedback, comments and suggestions has given me inspiration and motivation which will direct the remainder of my project. In addition, I had the opportunity to meet leading expert in e-cigarette research, Professor Robert Tarran who was in attendance from the USA.

Overall, I had a brilliant time at the BTS winter meeting 2019. The schedule was a great balance between clinical, translational and basic scientific research, culminating in a diverse line up covering every aspect of lung health research. I am extremely grateful to the BALR for the travel grant award which allowed me to attend the full conference. It was an amazing experience and I would thoroughly recommend it to other early career investigators.

Alice Jasper - PhD Student, University of Birmingham

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